As I said a few (dozen?) entries back, I've been dubbing my Urusei Yatsura (UY) tapes to DVD. One of the episodes I watched is among my favorites: the Watermelon God episode.
The basic story is this: the crew go to a seaside village as a late summer getaway. They're relaxing on the beach and enjoying the day when Shinobu suggests that they smash some watermelons. In Japan, apparently people make a game out of this; a person is blindfolded, spun three times, and given a stick; then he must hit a watermelon which is sitting on the sand. If he splits it, the watermelon is enjoyed by all. If he misses, someone else gets a shot at it. Sort of like a pinata, I suppose.
When Ataru tries to buy a watermelon from a vendor near the beach, however, the man goes ballistic and tells them he won't sell them a watermelon on today of all days!
The man's odd reaction gets some explanation when we cut to a scene showing the mayor of the village consulting with Cherry and Sakura, and explaining to them that he would like them to see if they can help calm the "watermelon spirits", so they can avoid the curse of the watermelon spirits. For 500 years the village has had an annual ritual devoted to calming the watermelon spirits, who are apparently very vengeful. They want to avoid being cursed! "What is the curse?" the priest asks. The mayor doesn't know, but he recounts the tale of a young man who loved watermelons.
This young man sneaked off and ate watermelon on the day that the village had performed its watermelon-spirit-calming ritual...and he got a stomachache! From "only" 10 basketball-sized watermelons! (The lovely Sakura says, "Only 10? I normally eat 20!" Cherry and the mayor agree that they normally can handle around 18.)
So then Lum finds a watermelon: a giant one, about 12 feet in diameter. It's festooned with shi te, and it's obviously the central object of a shrine. The kids don't know about the watermelon spirits. Shinobu observes that the giant watermelon is pretty disgusting. Lum thumps it and says it sounds weird. Ataru adds that they probably added the shi te to decorate it because it was so ugly, and they all have a laugh at that, with Lum thumping the watermelon some more. Shinobu suggests they leave, and so they do...and the watermelon quivers and starts to do this weird breathing thing, before leaping off the shrine and rolling after the kids.
The kids are chased by the watermelon all the way to the beach, with the population of the town following and screaming that they kids are stealing their god. They make a right-angle turn onto the beach and the watermelon follows; and it then launches itself into the air and lands on Ataru, which prompts Lum to electrocute the thing...and it cracks.
The villagers are aghast. Their god has been cracked! How will they ever avoid the curse of the watermelon spirits?
Thoroughly pissed off, the watermelon god shows its face for the first time (as well as stick-figure arms and legs) and tells the villagers that he's really, really angry, and that he's going to curse them all...starting with the mayor! The mayor bravely stands in front of the watermelon god and steels himself for the worst. The watermelon god takes a breath...
...and sprays him with seeds.
Mayor: THIS is the curse?
WG: Yes! How do you like it?
The subtext in the Mayor's comments are, "This is the STUPID curse we've been so worried about for FIVE HUNDRED FRIGGING YEARS???"
What does he think of it? He takes a chunk of watermelon, eats it, and spits the seeds back at the watermelon god! And the villagers do too!
...so what does this have to do with shopping?
Today I thought it'd be nice to get a watermelon. And the watermelons at the grocery store were all round, like the way the Japanese like to grow theirs, and mostly their color was pretty good, except for the part which was on the bottom (ie the part resting on the ground). I was thumping them to try to find a good one, and I suddenly remembered Lum thumping the giant watermelon in the shrine.
So I'm standing there, moving watermelons and looking at them, and laughing out loud because I'm thinking about the watermelon god...and I realized that I probably looked like a complete lunatic.
At least I got a seedless watermelon. No curse for me!